As organizations grow and mature, there tends to be a natural evolution or shifting of roles and processes. Employees will find their day-to-day responsibilities become more specialized, as individuals and teams develop their niches and – correctly – focus on the tasks that they are best at.

Which brings us to upsells, a critical component of any Software-as-a-Service business.

Traditionally at SaaS startups, Account Executives (AE’s) will focus on closing, bringing in new business, while Account Managers (AM’s) focus on customer happiness and managing the after-sale relationship. Upsells are also typically the domain of the AM team.

Not any longer.

Here at InsightSquared, we recently migrated to a model whereby AM’s no longer own or are responsible for upsells – the AE who initially closed this customer will now tackle all upsell opportunities there.

Read on to learn about why we made this process change, and why we think you should too.

Division of Labor   

Keeping a customer happy is very different from engaging a customer in a commercial or transactional relationship. This stands to reason – once money is involved, conversations tend to take on a different tone. Of course, you also can’t have smooth conversations involving money when customers are unhappy, and that shouldn’t be on the shoulders of your customer team. With two vastly different branches of the same customer tree, it makes sense to separate the responsibilities governing those two branches.

Moving the responsibility of upsells to AE’s will enable AM’s to spend more time becoming a partner to our clients.

- Natasha Munshi, InsightSquared AM

The biggest benefit here is for the customers. Turning to a hard-charging closing machine – who typically focuses on hunting down and bringing in new business – to get your onboarding and support questions answered might not be the best source. Similarly, a relationship-managing Account Manager might not be well-versed in the nuances of pricing or negotiation.

Separating these disparate job roles makes for a better experience for the customers, whether they are dealing with support or trying to buy more product. Your AM’s, now freed from the pressures of an overbearing upsell quota, can focus on what’s really important – ensuring your customers are happy and satisfied with your product and their experience.

“Moving the responsibility of upsells to the AE’s will enable us AM’s to spend more time becoming a partner to our clients,” said Natasha Munshi, one of InsightSquared’s most senior AM’s. “This allows sales to focus solely on transactional growth with those customers.”

The inefficiency of the more traditional system of AM’s owning upsells is that natural “helpers” become incentivized to close, or vice versa. You should never incentivize an employee – especially one in the service field – to prioritize their potential personal financial gain over the happiness of the customer.

Of course, this issue of compensation becomes a thorny one that must be handled for both parties. This is an especially complicated problem for your Sales Managers to sort out.

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What Sales Managers Must be Aware Of

While this type of process change will affect the AM team, it’s your team of closers who must really adapt to a new challenge. And it’s on sales managers to help their AE’s sort out through the myriad issues, the first – and perhaps most critical –  of which is…

Compensation – The entire incentive structure of your AE team will have to change pretty dramatically, to reflect their additional work and responsibilities with this process change. But along with more work, your closers will also have more opportunities to make money – both for you and for themselves. It wouldn’t be fair to either of you to just make a like-for-like increase in quota and compensation, so it’s time to get creative.

We suggest looking into your historical metrics to determine what percentage of your overall incoming revenue has been comprised of upsells, and then raising quotas for your AE’s somewhat accordingly. If upsells typically make up 30% of your new revenue, maybe you would increase your reps’ individual quotas by only 20%. This lessens the pressure on them to take on a new task immediately. Additionally, if your AM’s were previously incentivized with bonuses based on upsells, you should adjust their base salaries if you’re taking away their upsell incentives and opportunities.

Best practices – There are two different avenues of best practices that sales managers must be aware of when training their closers in the art of the upsell.

  • But the more important issue here is coaching your reps on how to handle their new responsibilities while still focusing on bringing in new business, and this comes down to time management. As a sales manager, it can be concerning that your closers are spending too much time on one area while neglecting the other. They must effectively juggle their number of new business calls, revival calls and account penetration calls.Your closers should also attack new business opportunities and new customers with a different perspective. They know they have to get the relationship right from the get go if they’re going to call and ask for more money later. They’ll develop a deeper and more intimate knowledge of the customers they bring in, keeping particularly close attention to their growth – after all, growing customers equal more upsell opportunities.

Metrics – Just like everything they did previously, your closers should be measured on their new upsell responsibilities. Fortunately, these opportunities can be measured and managed in the same way as you would with traditional new business sales metrics. Track the number of account penetration calls that lead to meetings booked, opportunities created and upsell deals closed, paying close attention to the downstream conversion rates between each activity. You can then figure out where your closers need upsell sales coaching help.


We believe that shifting the onus for generating upsells to Account Executives, your closers who are already doing all the selling for your team, from your Account Managers will provide better service and a more satisfying experience for your customers, while letting your two disparate teams work more efficiently and effectively. We think you should make this sales process shift too.

Any questions about how to make this change? Ask us in the comments section below, and we’d be happy to answer them.

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